Monthly Archives: March 2014

Articles! Where are the articles?! 

I was educated in the US school system since third grade. Back in the day when I moved to the US, to my knowledge, there was no Japanese school available. On Saturdays, the embassy rented out a couple of classrooms from a private school in the area to hold Hoshuukou, or Saturday school offering the regular Japanese school curriculum to expat students. So my regular week was a six-day week, the first five in a regular public school and Saturday was devoted to my Japanese studies. This was in a time before sushi was a popular food, kids still believed that, in Japan, we all wore kimonos and Japanese people can all do Karate and are Ninjas. I’m not exaggerating, kids used to ask me this shit all the time. My bento box was looked down upon as “weird stinky food.” When my gym teacher realized I didn’t understand the rules for American football (and I still don’t), she sent over the other Asian girl to me to translate for me. She was Chinese, I think. I still remember the shame I felt, as I stood in the corner and this girl shyly came over to me as the whole class watched. She tried to explain the American football rules in English. The teacher ushered her saying, “No no, in Chinese…she doesn’t speak English.” She tried to explain I didn’t know Chinese either, but she was told, “Well, it’s similar isn’t it?” She shrugged her shoulders, knowing that she wasn’t going to convince them otherwise, and tried her best to communicate with me.

People weren’t bad, many of the kids were really nice, they tried to include me in their games. After figuring out that I did not have a basic understanding of English, the school took the initiative and moved me to the ESL (English Speaking and Learning) class. For half the day, I sat there with a coloring paper the teacher gave me and only participated in math class. We non-native speakers spent the other half of the day in a different classroom where we “learned” English. In reality, I spent about three years spelling out the days of the week. Being Japanese, my pronunciation of “Th” was not perfect and the teachers decided that I was not fit to return to regular classes. So you can say, I lost a good amount of primary school education.

It also meant that I didn’t have the chance to study the basics of English grammar. It took me several years to develop enough English from regular classes to finally be able to speak, and eventually write. Neither really happened until my mother, realizing I was getting nowhere in the public school ESL class, moved me to an academic private school where the teachers made a significant effort to make sure I could keep up with the rest of the class.

Articles and tense agreement have remained a challenge for me since Japanese does not have either. I’ve also come to realize that most educated people are pretty iffy on articles. If I was to choose 10 equally well-educated people to proofread, I would get several different opinions on my use of articles. That’s just amongst Americans, add in some British and Australians and I’m sure I would get totally different comments from everyone in the room.
**Marc says I need a semi-colon or a period after “Americans”, and he’s calling it a gut feeling. Case and point**

Apparently though, I’ve left my articles in the US. Since moving to Singapore, I’ve noticed I’m losing my articles. Chinese, like Japanese, does not have the concept of articles and even English speakers here tend to drop them. I have to be very careful when I write because Marc looks at me and goes “What’s missing here?” and I would sheepishly have to admit, “the”. I’ve noticed Nina’s English lacks many articles as she’s learning how to speak in Singapore. Now, how do you insert articles back into your life? This is going to be a long battle….

** The articles in color are the ones I was originally missing that Marc added in for me**

I plan on writing about this topic in Japanese separately in a bit.


Onigiri? Onigiri! /おにぎり? え?

Having a multicultural family always has its own challenges, especially when your partner does not share the same level of interest for your culture. Luckily, Marc has always been interested in Japanese culture and he has always supported me in raising our children in a mixed cultural environment. We’ve had our FAIL moments though…

Before we had children, before we were even married, we were busy New Yorkers living THE life in an East Village studio. I was a consultant at the time and had crazy hours. Calls at 10PM, working all-nighters…took me a while to realize it didn’t have to be that way.

Anyways, one of those nights, I’ve had enough and left work at around 9PM and called Marc hoping to see his face for once before crashing.

“Hey, had a rough day?”
“Yup, leaving now, should be back in about half an hour”
“Want anything when you get home?”
“…..I wish I had an onigiri or something… need soul food…. no, don’t worry about it…. just tired and blabbering…”
“OK, well, get home soon, we can chat later”

We hung up the phone and I dragged my butt home. When I opened the door, Marc welcomed me with a full smile and led me to the kitchen.


If you’ve seen a property made onigiri, it looks like this.
What I saw on the big dinner plate were 3 white oums (from the Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind).

…What? I wanted to ask him how a simple rice ball turned into large grubs, but seeing his proud face, I couldn’t do it. I did appreciate his effort, I just didn’t know what to say. I smiled, said thank you in the most sincere way I could and managed to use both hands to pick up one of the gigantic grubs.

“OK, shape is funny, a bit gruesome even, but it’s just rice. He made such an effort to cheer me up, I have to eat this,” I said in my mind.

First few bites, it was OK, it tasted like rice. Plain old rice. Fair enough. Then I bit into the middle and choked. I heard a large crunch in the middle and insanely salty blast hit my mouth.

Marc saw the shock on my face and said, “Oh no, are you OK? Did I do something wrong?”

I couldn’t contain it anymore. I burst out in hysterical laughter. I looked at the “onigiri” and saw that he had stuffed furikake, or Japanese salty rice sprinkles in a hole.

“Dude, I’m sorry, but what is this!?”

Marc explained, he couldn’t get the shape right ‘cause his fingers are shaped funny and he remembered the onigiri that we bought at convenience stores had stuffing in it. He couldn’t find the usual tuna or ume (pickled plum), he remembered I used the furikake with onigiri before, so he used it.

“How did you even get that in there!? Furikake is supposed to be mixed into the rice before you make the onigiri.”
“Well, I wasn’t sure how to do it either, so I tried to make the shape, and when I couldn’t do it, I figured I’d poke a hole in it with my finger, used a spoon to pour furikake in there and sealed it with rice.”
“This is terrible…how many cups of rice is it anyways?”
“Was I supposed to eat 3 cups of rice in one sitting?”
“Figured you could, you’re a bottomless pit…maybe you didn’t have lunch? ”

We both laughed. At that point we had already been living together for number of years, he’d seen me make onigiri so many times, but we realized when something is not a part of your culture, even years of being together, we still sometimes need to rehash it together and make sure what we think we know, is actually right.

Man, he tried, and he tried REALLY hard, but to this day, it’s the worst looking and tasting onigiri in the history of onigiri. Later, we took an onigiri class (Yes. They had such a thing in NYC) and he has since just learned to use saran wrap. Now, he makes them for Nina and Mila all the time and even taught Nina how to make them herself.

See girls, daddy wasn’t always perfect. It took some work to get him there!



















雛祭り Japanese Holiday(Girl’s Day)

When you are living in and with three different cultures, you have as three times as many holidays to cover. I end up missing a lot of them, but the one I missed last year and wanted to make up for this year was the Japanese Hinamatsuri or Girls’ Day. In Japan, celebrate the health and happiness of girls on March 3rd. (Don’t worry, we have Boys’ Day on May 5th) We had couple of girls (+ one boy) come over for a small party to celebrate the holiday.

For Hinamatsuri, Japanese families often celebrate by displaying lavish dolls representing a wedding in the Heian period. The dolls often get passed down for generations. We have the dolls my grandfather bought for our mother long time ago. Alas, we cannot bring the dolls to Singapore since we’re afraid of mold, so we decided to do simple arts & crafts and make the dolls ourselves. We displayed the dolls, had the girls day feast and finished with daddy writing each kid’s name with pancake batter on a pan. This is one of my favorite rainy day and party activity. Some food coloring involved, but it’s something different and fun.

Lots of sweets and sugar that day but the girls + 1 boy loved it. We pinked up our apartment for girls day with pink paper, fake flowers on the mirror and pink lanterns hanging on the ceiling. Nina enjoyed the party, so it was well worth it. Mila crashed pretty early that day. I consider that a success.

We had few bottles of champagne and some beer for the parents. My sister had brought Rose sparkling wine. Perfect for the occasion!



娘とお友達はおかしをいっぱい食べて上機嫌。でも寝かせるのに苦労したとい言う話も…夜遅く(730ゴロ? 普段なら寝る時間…)にホットケーキ食べたりしたからね。親sはシャンパンとビールでほっこり。妹がたまたまロゼのスパークリングワインを持ってきてくれてたので、エンジョイさせて頂きました。次はどの祝日やろうかな~。

ガールズとひなあられ Girls and the Hina arare

Girls and the Hina arare

Chirashi Sushi cake  チラシケーキ

Chirashi Sushi cake

シャンパンがちょっと写ってる~。 Champagne in front of the kiddies

Champagne in front of the kiddies

Everything as indeed pink.  ...note the little boy is not even in the photos....  He was hiding until the dad's showed up

Everything as indeed pink.
…note the little boy is not even in the photos….
He was hiding until the dad’s showed up

Getting Medical Attention in Bali (Safely) バリの病院設備について

Here’s some good information on Medical facilities in Bali. Rough Japanese translation to follow.






Bali Clinicは小さい事(軽い腹痛、熱等)には対応出来るかもしれませんが、専門的な事や重体の場合は、病院に行かれた方がいいとお思います。リゾートやホテルと提携しているところも多く、旅行者は良くこちらに回されるようですが、余りお勧めできません。


初めてバリにいった時(去年のクリスマス)Brad(妹の旦那)が食中毒を起こしたため、病院に連れて行くことに。ただ、かなり重度だったので、小さいクリニックではなく、ビラのオーナーさん(バリ在住)にどこに行くべきか聞くことに。彼女のお勧めは、旅行者慣れしていて、オーストラリアからの旅行者に人気なBIMCではなく、デンパサールにあるBROS病院(Bali Royal Hospitalの略)でした。どちらも私達がいたSanurからはそれほど変わらない距離だったので、お勧めのBROS病院へ向かう事を決めました。


2月にバリに友人と戻ったのですが、ビーチで数時間寛いだ後、部屋にもどってみると、ふともものあたりに引きずったような傷が出来ていました。その晩はとにかく傷薬を塗って、寝たんですが、朝、目を覚ますとズキズキして、腫れてきていたので、近くにある観光客が良く行くBali Clinicへ行きました。一目見て、お医者さんは肌の炎症だと決めつけて抗生物質(塗り薬と飲み薬)を処方しました。診療代はUSD85(現時点で8600円程度)でした。
運よく20分程の待ち時間でオフィスに通され、最初に診て下さった一般のお医者さんは自分の手には負えないからと病院内の皮膚科の先生に連絡をとってくれました。皮膚科の専門医の先生は丁寧に傷を見て、恐らくは海で何かにかすった(クラゲ?)せいで起きた重度のアレルギー反応でしょう、と言って的確な治療を施してくれ、炎症では無い事を確認/説明し、何か変化があれば連絡するように自分のメルアドまで渡してくれ、私が落ち着くまで30分程の時間をかけてくれました。シンガポールに戻ってからもメールで様子を確認する連絡をくれたりと、しっかりしたケアを受けられました。治療代はBali Clinicと同じでUSD85(現時点で8600円程度)でした。シンガポールに戻ってからチェックアップの為に行った病院の先生もBROS病院の先生は的確に処理してくれていたし、薬もしっかりとしたものを出してくれたみたいで、良かったね、と言ってくれました。(ちなみにどこから見ても炎症ではないでしょう、とも仰いました)Bali Clinicは多くのホテルに隣接している為、手軽に行けるのですが、ケアのクオリティを考えるとBROS病院に行かれた方がいいと思います。私達の場合はそれ程重度な症状ではなかったのですが、もし必要なら無理に治療をせずに、出国手続きまでやってくれると私は感じました。ただデンパサールの渋滞は酷い事も多いので、時間がかかる事もあるのは確かです。

***ちなみにバリでタクシーに乗る場合はBlue Birdタクシーに乗るのが安全です。ただ、偽Blue Bird Taxiも出回っているようなのでお気を付け下さい。